With support from families, Rep. Dan Newhouse unveils proposal to combat fentanyl
March 16, 2023 Updated Thu., March 16, 2023 at 9:05 p.m.
YAKIMA – Sitting next to his wife, Brandi, Andrew Wonacott, of Yakima, told how he lost both his sons to fentanyl overdose.
William, 27, died in Alabama from an overdose of methamphetamine laced with fentanyl. Less than two years later, on Nov. 15, 2022, Wonacott found his other son, James, 32, dead in his apartment from the same drug.
They were two of the couples’ four children.
“Lost 50% of my family,” Andrew Wonacott said.
On a video screen, longtime Yakima residents Rocky and Gina Roybal told how their 18-year-old son, Devin, died of a fentanyl overdose on Dec. 8, 2019.
“The horrific part of this is finding your child dead in bed,” Gina Roybal said.
The Wonacotts and Roybals shared their stories Wednesday night at the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce event, where U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, announced proposed legislation aimed at combating the fentanyl epidemic that’s been sweeping the country.
Leaders in Yakima County government, the Yakama Nation and law and justice officials – more than 20 in all – attended the event to get a glimpse of the proposed legislation and discuss fentanyl’s deadly toll.
The legislation calls for a minimum 20-year sentence up to life in prison for anyone who deals fentanyl-related substances, and a minimum 25-year sentence up to life in prison for dealers who sell to a person who dies from the drug.
“This fentanyl issue is threatening every corner of our nation,” Newhouse said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, white or Brown – it’s everywhere.”
Embracing Newhouse’s efforts, the Wonacotts and Roybals said not enough is being done to keep the drug off the streets and laws lack the teeth needed to prosecute drug pushers.
“Stop letting people get away literally with murder,” Andrew Wonacott said. “That’s exactly what’s happening.”
Of the 81 overdose deaths in Yakima County last year, 43 were caused by fentanyl alone, and 10 were caused by a mixture of fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to the coroner’s annual report.
That was slightly below 2021 when the county recorded 98 overdose deaths with 45 coming from fentanyl and 10 from a mix of fentanyl and meth, according to that year’s report.
So far this year, there have been 15 suspected overdose deaths with one believed to have been caused by fentanyl, two from a mixture of fentanyl and meth and one from oxycodone, said Yakima’s Chief Deputy Coroner, Marshall Slight.
“Most of them are young, 20s to 30s,” he said.
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